Opportunity, Adventure, and Beachfront Living in Glorious Vietnam
“Stay in school is what adults tell kids, right? That was my problem. I stayed too long,” says Ronald Kysiksi from the veranda of his condo along postcard-perfect Hoi An beach, just outside of Da Nang, Vietnam.
Back in his student days, Ronald, who has degrees in physics and math, thought he would spend his professional life in academia. But his career stalled after he finished his postgraduate work. “Offers never came. There are only so many places for physicists in the university system and even less in the real world, and when you’re at a second- or third-tier university you need a back-up plan, which I really didn’t have.”
After leaving academia, Ronald took on a whole host of jobs. “I did so many different ones—post office, bartender, baggage handler. I sold corn dogs one summer because it paid more than the teaching position I was offered. After a good long stint as a screw salesman, which is just as exciting as it sounds, I knew I had to make a big change, a life change,” he says.
After turning 40 and unable to find a career that brought him joy, Ronald began to consider leaving his native Chicago. While researching opportunities abroad, he came across teaching opportunities in the Middle East and Asia. And within a few months, he was packing for a job in Saudi Arabia, teaching math and science at a boys’ academy.
“Living in Saudi was limiting. We had a lot of restrictions. It wasn’t ideal, but the pay was great and I had almost no expenses, so I banked everything I could with an eye to moving on,” says Ronald.
After two consecutive contracts in Saudi Arabia, he moved on to a small city in Thailand about 60 miles from Bangkok. Ronald was still teaching math and still working in a private school, but that’s where the similarities ended. “These places couldn’t be more different from each other,” he says. “Everything in Saudi, inside of work and outside, was pre-organized and post-scrutinized. In Thailand, I had freedom.”
For two years in Thailand, Ronald taught his contracted 15 hours a week, but also scoured the internet looking for technical jobs that would allow him to work remotely. Ultimately, he came across an ad looking for a technician for a web-based management system. The job wasn’t exactly what he was looking for, but with his years of programming experience, he was an excellent candidate.
Over the course of a year, he did numerous online interviews and waited as the position was put in stasis for a time while the company sought to free up funding for the job. Ronald feared that he was being overlooked because of his age, but ultimately he got the position…and his life was transformed. With the freedom of a fully portable income, he relocated to Vietnam.
“Until I went to Saudi, I had never traveled outside of the United States,” says Ronald. “I was nearly 50 and had never had an apartment or house to myself and was always behind the eight ball financially. I was frustrated and exhausted by years of rejection.
“In Saudi, I saved money. In Thailand, I made enough to live a very decent lifestyle without ever touching my savings. Now I’m living in a way I never thought possible in Chicago. I take holidays and never worry about the bills or the cost of nights out. I wake up, make coffee, open the blinds, look at the sea, log in, put on some music—and I enjoy what I’m doing.”
Ronald’s performance has been outstanding to the point that the Palo Alto, California-based company he works for has invited him to operate full-time from its headquarters with an appropriate raise. “No thanks is what I told them. The raise in salary would have been huge, but so would have been the increase in my cost of living. My manager said I could buy a Tesla like his, but in Palo Alto I won’t have this,” says Ronald, gesturing to his unobscured view of the glorious beach and sea from his home in Vietnam.
Written by John McMahon